Had axillary lymphadenectomy?

Hello! I am new to the forum and newly diagnosed (last month) with a grade II invasive cancer in my right breast. I spotted it last September but two screenings and two GPs kept missing it (more details on that if anybody is interested).
I am due for a full mastectomy on Tuesday. First they did a SLNB and last Thursday gave me the results: Nodes are clear but surrounding tissue shows infiltration. Since my cancer is big (takes up the whole right side of my breast) the Dr. wants to remove axillary lymph nodes…
That worries me even me more than the mastectomy, to which I was resigned already. They did not give me a choice, but the Dr says it is safer. However I have read axillary lymphadenectomy does not improve your survival chances.
If any of you has gone through this or had a similar experience I would be most grateful for your views or comments. I have been working towards going to surgery in a positive mood but find it very difficult now. I am scared of the permament side effects of loosing my LN…
Thanks a lot for any help.

Hello Nikiya

I had axillary node clearance two and a half years ago at the same time as WLE. The original plan was just for sentinel node biopsy but when I read up about SNB and found that it has only a 93% accuracy rate I asked for ANC instead. Two nodes were found to be affected.

Afterwards the surgeon said he was very pleased I had chosen ANC rather than SNB. His words were ‘if I had missed those nodes …’.

I developed a seroma in my armpit about 10 days after the surgery which was drained several times before settling down. I’m pretty careful with the affected arm but so far (touch wood) although I have lymphoedema in my breast, my arm is OK although a bit painful sometimes.
I have no regrets about having had the full ANC.
Good luck
Anthi x

Hi Nikiya, I had aux clearence and rads to the area in '04. I’m still here and well after a poor prognosis so they must’ve got it right with me!!
Josie x

May I add that I had to attend hospital for about a month afterwards to be drained - which was an inconvenience more than anything, I’ve never had any problems with my arm since xx

I too had a full auxillary clearance and mastectomy on 2 july - 2-3 weeks after i had to get the seroma drained but its gone now and arm is healing fine. So, try not to worry - its really not that bad…

Best wishes

Hello Nikiya
I can understand your concerns well. Axillary clearance is done for two purposes: diagnostic (to see if it has spread) and for treatment - to clear all possible signs of cancer before they start chemo. I had surgery in Nov 07. They knew one node was affected (could feel it) and so I was told I had to have Axillary Clearance. I was never happy with it: it made no difference to treatment - I still had to have chemo regardless of whether one node or more were affected. And if the chemo was not going to kill the cancer in the nodes, then it wouldn’t kill it anywhere else either and so why was I having it?? Medical history is littered with operations that are now redundant - taking out aedenoids, stomach ulcers or tonsils routinely, for example, - it even used to be standard practice to do lobotomies for depression. I really didn’t want AC, but I was told it was standard practice and I had to have it - this was a discussion just before the operation when I was tired, weak from lack of food, already in a gown - and not really in a position to argue! I am actually fine - my arm is OK (touch wood), no lymphodema. But I still don’t see why I had to have it. Do ask your surgeon for a chat.
Best wishes

I’m meant to be having a full axillary clearance next month - had an MRI Friday and although tumour shrunk in right breast to 6mm grade 3 stage 2, they did a biopsy last March, as swelling in armpit, and said that nodes affected, but don’t know how many. I had chemo first (nearly finished thank goodness) to shrink everything and seeing surgeon on Thursday to discuss operation, but already been told full axillary clearance will take place. What worries me is (although trying very hard to be positive) if there was a recurrence where would the BC spread, the nodes are like a protective layer, - I assume it would spread to other nodes in neck and collar bone! I will be asking this question on Thursday (I live in France so I hope the surgeon speaks good enough English!) - if anyone has been in the same position I would appreciate feedback
Ginny x

It is a difficult one this and I had exactly the same concerns as those some of you have expressed. They knew I had some lymph node involvement but not how much. I had a full axillary clearance and it was found that i had 9 out of 17 involved. The good news was that it hadn’t reached the top layer of nodes. So in hindsight I didn’t need all lymph nodes removed but without that we’d never have know for sure if there were others in the top layer involved.

I must admit I am confused about the additional radiotherapy to the area afterwards as well but I think that is because there can be stray cells - same for chemotherapy. My understanding is that each part of the treatment is all about increasing good chances rather than providing certainty.

Elinda x


I had a full anc at time of mx in Jan 08 after chemo had shrunk tumour from 7.5cm to 3cm. The surgeon warned me beforehand that he may have to remove more surrounding tissue if he went in and found anything suspicious - he did. The results afterwards showed vascular invasion and cancer in 12/22 nodes in spite of good chemo results. he removed all 3 stages of the lymph and again that was good as the 2 stages further away had all lymph nodes infected whereas the first stage ‘only’ had half affected. They then zapped a large area with rads. I have since got lymphoedema (not too badly at this stage) but that has improved with physio and not picked up any extra bugs. Personally I would rather have had the surgery than leave too many cells floating around.


Hi girls! First of all thanks so much to all of you for helping me with your views and experience.
I was looking forward to your replies but understood I would be advised when my question was approved by the moderator, hence my delay in reading and acknowledging them!
I do not have much time since my op is this Tuesday and I do not want to miss it… have not been offered many discussions, just told what was going to be done really. Reading your stories, I am surprised they did not offer any therapy before the operation since my cancer seems to be quite big, which is why they are doing a full mastectomy…
As for my LNs, none of them were or are swollen and are not evident in a medical exam, and as I said, they are negative but the surrounding tissue is apparently invaded. I hope I can ask the doctor (whom I’ll probably see when I’m ready to go to the OR!!) why that can’t be taken care by the chemo I was told I would have, as P says.